BOOK REVIEWS: Almost Perfect

Winner of the 2011 Stonewall Children’s and Young Adult Literature Award.

Almost Perfect was listed by the American Library Association as one of the Best Books for Young Adults in 2010.

A Capitol Choice Noteworthy Book for 2010 (Washington, D.C.)

A Lambda Award nominee, 2010

A 2011 TAYSHASH (Texas) Reading List Book

A 2011-2012 Georgia Peach Award nominee

A 2011-2012 Garden State Teen Book Award nominee (New Jersey)

A 2012-2013 Green Mountain Book Award nominee (Vermont)

A 2013 Flume Readers’ Choice Award nominee (New Hampshire)

A YALSA 2014 Outstanding Book for the College Bound

From The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books, January 2010 edition

After a painful breakup with the only girl he ever loved, senior Logan Witherspoon is gun-shy when it comes to romance. New girl Sage, however, makes him reconsider, even though she makes it clear early on that she can’t offer anything more than friendship, and even though her parents keep her under strange and severe strictures. When Logan and Sage find their attraction rising, she tells him her secret: she was born male. Katcher, author of Playing With Matches, manages a delicate balance here: Sage is utterly credible and utterly sympathetic, but so are Logan’s shock and reservations. His narration explores the emotional issues—does this mean he’s gay? Can he face his small Missouri town if people know?—while the story conveys the daunting details of Sage’s everyday realities, such as going to great lengths to avoid showing her driver’s license, which classifies her as male. Though the book is programmatic at times and gives Logan too much responsibility for Sage’s well-being and identity, this is a solid, reality-based exploration of transgender issues and the possibly insurmountable task of facing them as a teenager in a small town. While transgender readers will find support here, the book’s focus on a bystander broadens the book’s relatability, and the message of acceptance is thoughtfully conveyed.

From School Library Journal, December, 2009 edition

A small-town Missouri boy’s world is rocked when he falls for the new girl at school, and she eventually confesses that she is a biological male. Logan’s world is small, as is his mind at first, but throughout the book he grows to accept and love Sage for who-not what-she is. This remarkable book takes a hard look at the difficulties and pain experienced by young male-to-female transsexuals from an easily relatable perspective, as Julie Ann Peters did in Luna. Logan is a conservative 18-year-old Everyman whose generic voice isn’t-and doesn’t need to be-anything special; although readers follow his growth, it is Sage’s story that is truly important. A remarkably “clean” book dealing with sexuality and identity, this is neither preachy nor didactic while directly challenging prejudice and intolerance. With realistic characters and situations, it is a first purchase for all high school collections, and could easily be given to middle school readers who are undaunted by its length.

From Kirkus Reviews, September 1, 2009 edition (starred review)

Katcher flawlessly channels the worried and confused voice of a straight teenage boy in this honest and uncompromising take on transgender love. High-school senior Logan is stunned when outgoing new girl Sage reveals she is biologically a boy after they kiss for the first time. Logan realistically cycles through denial, anger and anxiety, finally reaching acceptance but constantly wondering whether he is brave enough to shrug off the deeply ingrained conventions of his rural upbringing. Sage is just as candidly drawn, struggling to balance her fear of being found out with her need to be seen as a “normal” girl. Domestic drama and personal tragedy ensue, and while the ending is not necessarily a happy one, both characters come full circle and begin to better understand both themselves and each other. The author tackles issues of homophobia, hate crimes and stereotyping with humor and grace in an accessible tone that will resonate with teens who may not have encountered the issue of transgender identity before. An excellent companion piece to Ellen Wittlinger’s Parrotfish (2007) and Jean Ferris’s Eight Seconds (2000).

From Booklist

Transsexuality is the issue in this candid novel told from the viewpoint of Logan, a high-school senior in a small Missouri town. The story quickly moves from Logan’s attraction to Sage, a cute, strange new girl at school, to his shock at the discovery that Sage was born male and is in transition to become a female. More than anything, Logan worries that once Sage’s identity is revealed, people will think that he is gay for being attracted to a boy. Then Sage attempts suicide, and Logan feels guilty about failing her. Unlike Sage’s brutal father, though, Logan never denies that Sage is a she. The story is long and repetitive, and the messages are overt, but many teens both those familiar with transgender issues and those who are not will welcome the honest take on a rarely explored subject. The biological facts about hormones and Sage’s changing body are woven in, and Katcher clearly dramatizes the characters’ secrets, lies, shame, and denial, as well as the cruel prejudice they experience with family and friends.